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R v Clarke [2009] EWCA Crim 921

Criminal law - Medical Condition - Causing death by dangerous driving - Mitigation of death

 

Facts:

Clarke suffered from type 1 Diabetes and had a Hypoglycaemic attack at the wheel of his vehicle, causing him to hit two pedestrians on a footpath. He was convicted of dangerous driving causing death and sentenced to four years imprisonment.

Issues:

On appeal, whether or not Clarke was aware of the onset of the attack and whether he could have prevented the incident. Secondly, whether the court were required to consider the sentence in light of Clarke’s deteriorating health condition and length of time between the offence and the appeal.

Held:

Upon further consideration of Clarke’s deteriorating medical condition, the court found that Clarke probably would have had only a brief period of awareness before the imminent attack occurred. The judge applied the decisions of Cooksley (Robert Charles) [2003] EWCA Crim 996 and Richardson (Jack Virgil) [2006] EWCA Crim 3186 and also the Sentencing Guidelines Council’s guidelines, which determined a higher degree of culpability was required where an appellant had knowingly suffered a condition that was likely to significantly affect their ability to drive, leaving the court to determine that some degree of accountability was required. The rigid application of Richardsonand the Sentencing Guidelines would have resulted in imprisonment for 4-7 years. However, given the length of time the defendant had waited for the appeal as well as his current state of poor health likely to worsen in prison, the Court determined these to be highly exceptional circumstances and reduced Clarke’s culpability to below the expected sentencing range (one year). To that extent, the appeal was allowed. Given the severity of the offence, the imprisonment term could not be quashed entirely.


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